Trip Report Tanzania/Kenya June 2004

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Jul 11th, 2004, 12:10 PM
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Trip Report Tanzania/Kenya June 2004

Based on encouragement from several of you am posting multi-page report on recent trip to Tanzania and Kenya. The Tanzania portion is some 8 typed pages. Tried to list all that in one posting but would not work. Thus, Will try with several shorter ones. East Africa Trip
June, 2004

Early in 2004 we (wife Darla, 17 year old daughter Beth and I) made the decision to return to East Africa to revisit parts of Tanzania (as in 2002) and to see portions of Kenya. After checking various safari companies we decided to again use the services of 2Afrika via our travel agent (Travel Co. by Karen at [email protected]). In 2002, if I recall, 2Afrika paid her a commission for booking our trip. The new 2Afrika web page reflected a change in this policy. Prices quoted reflected payment by cashier?s check but credit card payment would involve an additional percent increase and a fee would be charged to handle the commission to travel agents. Since we had to also arrange transportation from State College, Pa to the 2Afrika JFK departure point, we employed Karen to arrange air travel and also to handle the booking with 2Afrika. We made a side agreement with Karen as to handling all our arrangements including travel insurance. Thus, we were able to go from State College airport to and from East Africa for about the same cost 2Afrika was charging from JFK. .

We obtained Malarone anti-malaria medication from our local pharmacy. The recommended ?take? was a daily tablet two days prior to the trip, during the trip and for 5 or so days afterwards. We took it with the morning meal and had no negative side effects.

We opted to obtain visas when we landed in Tanzania and upon crossing into Kenya based on feedback on Fodors Africa chat board. In that way we did not have to risk mailing passboards to the appropriate embassies or issuing firms, pay for specialized mailings, nor get photographs. We downloaded and completed the forms ahead of time.

We obtained ?soft? luggage from the local AAA office. Such were on sale for $17 each and were much easier to manage than the larger hardsided pieces. We used electrician?s tie straps for the trip over ( I forgot to take extras along so the luggage was unlocked or unsecured on the return trip?no problem and I think one was opened for inspection).

We took two wildlife id guides along. One was the National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife and the other was Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Stevenson and Fanshawe. They were a bit on the heavy side but well worth it. We had two pair of binoculars. I took an Olympus 740 digital camera (3 mp and a 10x zoom), a Minolta 35mm SLR with a 28-80mm zoom lens and a 200 mm telephoto lens while the daughter used a Pentax 35mm slr with a 35-80mm zoom lens. We had two flashlights, small note books, pens, and an assortment of medication. In addition, we took an ample supply of antiseptic wipes, rain ponchos, reading material, 2-256 mega-byte cards for the Olympus, 3 sets of rechargeable AA batteries, 25 rolls of 400 asa Kodak and Fujicolor film, plus a battery charge with adaptor for East Africa (unfortunately I forgot the three prong adaptor but made out okay with lodge loaners). The flashlights came in extra handy not only during a short power outage at one lodge but also for the walk between the tent/cabin to the dining facility and the occasional check for wildlife immediately outside the room.

I took cash (some in 50s and 100s to cover visa purchase, optional trips/events and at least 75$ in ones for tipping). I carried the credit card and cash in a travelers pouch worn under my shirt. After the one ?incident? with the airline tickets my wife carried those.

Even though we visited Tanzania in 2002 I still ?studied up? a bit on the itinerary. I was surprised that more than one fellow traveler had not done such and heard the dismay when he realized park ?x? was not included with his safari or his wife when she realized 3 nites would be spent in a tented lodge. 2Afrika provided quite a bit of information via a down load to include visa application forms. In reading up a bit on the various parks I had a rough idea as to what wildlife might be expected at each one.

We took less clothing than in 2002 but took probably 5 days worth plus a jacket and hat for each person. I wore a photographer/angler vest for carrying the digital camera, film, batteries, extra lens, notebook, etc. Both Darla and Beth had a small carrying bag for their stuff. The van had plenty of room for stowage.

We departed the State College airport around 5:15 pm Monday June 14. Due to a series of storms between here and Detroit we detoured and in the process got into Detroit after what we thought was the departure time of the NW flight to Amsterdam. We moved right along in the airport (considerable distance between the two concourses and made the flight! Earlier this year I told my family I would realize I was finally on the way when during the first inflight meal I was butter my roll and sipping red wine. The flight was uneventful but w/little sleep. I did create a moment of anxiety for the gals when I could not find our tickets. We then thought I left them on the airline counter in Detroit. I discovered them in my pants pocket and have not heard the end of that incident yet. It was about an eight hour flight. We got into Amsterdam airport a little late and with the delay in getting off the plane and reaching the departure gate we have much less than the 1.5 hour layover ?suggested? on the flight ticket. Our KLM flight arrived at Kilamanjaro airport around 8:20 pm local time Tuesday evening. On deplaning Beth noticed the sweet smell of burning wood---welcome to Africa!! We proceeded to the visa window. The official there did not ask for the application form. He simply took the $50 cash per person and stamped each passport and indicated we could proceed to bypass immigration and proceed to . customs after picking up our luggage. The visa process took no more time than what other travelers needed in the passport checking line. We waited for the luggage only to discover ours (as well as that for a few others) was missing. Upon checking in at the KLM service counter I was told they already knew ours was back in Amsterdam. I provided a bit more information to the paperwork already started by KLM. They indicated they would work thru Predators Safari Club and get the bags to us.

We ventured outside the building where guides and taxi drivers were waiting. I was quite surprised to see Godfrey, our 2002 guide standing there. He did not remember us but seem quite appreciative of our returning to his country. We learned another couple and two single travelers would comprise the 2Afrika contingent for the week in Tanzania. We loaded stuff in Godfrey?s van and headed to Arusha. During that short drive I recalled specific buildings and settings from the 2002 trip. I remembered seeing numerous persons walking along the road and of course the frequent taxi vans. We came to the turnoff to the Illboru Safari Lodge and yes, it was still the same rutted, bumpy dirt road with numerous small shacks (houses and shops) to the lodge. Several shops with half the door open and a customer or visitor chatting with the proprietor were still open. At it seemed the same mixed breed dogs were around. At the Lodge we were greeted by the staff and checked in. We had half of one of the round brick cabins. We each had a bed with mosquito netting. Never did figure out how to get hot water let alone water via the shower. Washed as best we could and off to sleep. In the morning we headed to breakfast. The main building had been renovated since 2002 and the dining room was now upstairs. There must have been 15 or so other guests and from their attire they might have been on a mission trip or some other special activity. We had various juices, pastry, fruits, eggs, bacon/ham, etc. There was time to explore the grounds before Godfrey and Shaba, the other guide, arrived. The grounds were nicely kept with lawn and planting of a great variety of flowers, trees and shrubs. Various small birds were in abundance and I spend some time stalking them. We also met our fellow travelers, a couple from California and two school teachers from the same state. We loaded up and headed into Arusha for a briefing at the Predators Safari Club office. It had been moved to the edge of town since the 2002 visit. Ms. Nabella Khan, the manager, welcomed us, gave a basic run down on the itinerary and handled questions. She was quite pleased to learn of our return visit.

We then split up with the three of us in Godfrey?s van and the other four with Shaba due to a difference in itinerary. Normally, the basic 2Africa Tanzania safari begins with Lake Manyara National Park until July when it switches to Tarangire NP given changes in game movement due to migration, etc. Since we had been to Lake Manyara in 2002 and July was not that far away 2Afrika agreed to my request to substitute Tarangire when we booked the trip with no change in price. Tarangire is noted for its baobab trees, large number of elephants and species of birds. I thought this would be a great chance to see another part of Tanzania. As it turned out we three would have the van to ourselves.

In 2002 the building housing Predator?s Safari Club also had a currency exchange but the new facility did not. Godfrey took me to a currency exchange on our way thru Arusha. The going rate was something like 1,080 Tanzania shillings for one $US. But, if larger denomination bills ($50 and $100s) were used the rate was 1,100 to 1. And, no commission!

In driving thru Arusha Godfrey showed us the complex housing the UN War Crimes Trial regarding activities in Rwanda and various local landmarks. Darla pointed out what seemed to be more people on the street and Godfrey indicated such was true as the population had swelled with refugees from neighboring countries due to civil strife. We saw a lot of activity including venders selling just about everything, furniture making, vehicle repairs, tire mending, etc. We also observed a large gathering of children parading at a government building as a means to call attention to the AIDS epidemic. Then we stopped at the Heritage Culture Center. Here one could shop for a wide array of goods including carvings, batik, jewelry, baskets, soapstone dishes and yes, precious gem stones including tanzanite. Also, local dancers and musicians were performing native songs and dances. High on our list was inspecting tanzanite. Size of stone, clarity, deepness of coloration, imperfections, etc, influenced price. One could have purchases shipped home, or prepared for pick-up at the end of one?s safari. Credit card sales carried an additional surcharge (5 percent I think). I understood Manager, Saifudun Khanbhai to say Internet sales were possible and they had a speedy delivery service (something like 7 days). I recall a fellow Fodorite seeking an address for the Center. It is Cultural Heritage Limited, P.O. Box 647, Arusha, Tanzania. Telephone 255-27-250-7496 and email at :[email protected]

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Jul 11th, 2004, 12:13 PM
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Then off to Tarangire National Park, a two hour or so ride on a paved road. We saw small herds of cattle and goats being tended by small boys, occasional huts along the way and even a herd of camels near a snake park. Dress varied from western attire to colorful garb of the Masai. I recognized the turnoff to Lake Manyara and then realized it was new turf from here on. So, we turned off onto a dirt and gravel road towards the park. Small shops offering crafts of various types were interspersed among the one room houses. At the park entrance we had box lunches (cold fried chicken, pastry, fruit, fruit drink, a trail mix type treat, etc). After lunch Godfrey suggested we explore the interpretative center with included a series of steps and platforms encircling a 250 year old baobab tree. Already the abundance of bird life was apparent as well as vervet monkeys. Godfrey popped up the van roof and we were off on the first game drive of the safari. The interpretative center baobab was still in sight when we began seeing big game. Seldom did we see another vehicle. Elephants were in abundance. The more arid hilly areas blended with the Tarangire River Valley offered a variety of wildlife and Godfrey was only too willing to stop as often and as long as we liked. We saw elephants, impala, waterbuck, warthog, giraffe, dik-dik, savannah baboon, nile monitor, hyrax, red-headed agama, Thompson?s gazelle, mongoose, ostrich, goliath heron, hammerkopi, fish eagle, tawny eagle, secretary bird, yellow necked spur fowl, redbilled spur fowl, helmeted pea fowl, plover, blacksmith lapwing, speckled pigeon, ringneck dove, white bellied go-away bird, 2 types of kingfishers, lilac breasted roller, red billed hornbill, barbet, magpie shrike, superb starling, pied crow, blackcrowned night heron, and white headed buffalo weaver. And, we saw numerous small birds that I was unable to photograph or point out to Godfrey for his identification. We really tried to look for the less obvious creatures on this trip. Thus, whenever we stopped to view species ?x? we would be sure to look around and see what else was in the immediate vicinity. The stop to check out a heron at a small pool on the river ended up with us seeing 3 or 4 different nile monitor lizards and two other species of fishing eating birds. Tarangire does have big cats but we did not see any. However, Godfrey did point out fresh tracks of a lion along the main road. On the way to the lodge we came face to face with a large elephant also traveling the same road but in our direction. He flared his ears, threw up dust and headed our way, then stopped, sounded off, flapped his ears, threw more dust and came closer and closer. Godfrey held his ground and finally with only a few feet of road separating us and the elephant it veered off to the side but then turned as if to ram the side of the van. The elephant didn?t however but moved over to a small bush and began feeding. Then, Godfrey backed the van nearer to the elephant. I could not imagine why unless he was somehow signaling to the elephant that we won! I took a series of photos showing the nearing of the elephant and what was thought of at the time as a to be ?ramming?. According to Beth ?Godfrey said, the elephant just wanted to be king.?

The landscape of Tarangire N.P. landscape was certainly interesting from the dominating baobab trees to large dense shrubs and then to enormous palm trees along a wet river bed.

We spent the night at the Tarangire Sopa Lodge. The sunset from the balcony was superb. The room was spacious but the commode did not operate with ease. A first time guest at one of these lodges might be taken back with place settings and menu. There was a variety of silver and glassware and the meal was somewhat forma (in the sense of serving style) yet relaxed. My appetizer was crunchy fried strips of vegetables followed by lentil soup. The main course was chicken on rice followed by a desert of chocolate mousse. Besides rolls and butter one could also have coffee or tea after the meal. One could also order wine, beer, soda or bottled water and such was charged to the room.

After dinner we washed up but could not change as our luggage was still missing. We slept fairly well except Darla and I were wakened in the middle of the nite to the sound of paper being crumbled. Nothing was obvious. We were up at 630 am. We noted the straw in a partially consumed fruit juice box was lying on the floor several feet from the dresser top with the box. Who knows what little ?visitor? was with us. Breakfast (omlets, ham, potatoes, fruits, pastry, juice, pancakes, etc) was consumed with sufficient time to watch wildlife from the balcony. The twenty mile drive from the Lodge to the main road resulted in us seeing additional wildlife species including the purple swamp hen and gray crowned crane. Around 850 am we exited the park and were on the main road a few minutes later. In the distance we could see Lake Manyara. When we turned onto the road towards Lake Manyara I recalled that portion was under construction in 2002 and how dusty it was. We stopped in Mto Wa Mbu where Godfrey bought a bunch of bananas for us. The new road with block drainage ditches seemed out of place to the scene I recalled from the first trip. As we headed up the escarpment I could see areas of pink (the flock of pink flamingoes) along the shoreline of Lake Manyara where we first saw big game on the 2002 trip. As we moved along I was still impressed with the natural beauty of the area, even the drabbest of huts were set off with colorful flowers including morning glories and plants I did not know. Herds of livestock were seen here and there as well as natives harvesting corn by hand. We passed the brickyard where we saw workers making clay bricks in 2002. Road construction was continuing and I noted the grade stakes used by the engineers were trimmed branches from local trees as opposed to cut boards in this country. Dust was everywhere and the bumpy, rutted roads remembered in 2002 returned.

We stopped at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area so Godfrey could get the entrance papers approved and we could take a stretch. In the gift shop we purchased 21 post cards and 26 stamps for 23,000 Tanzanian shillings. I asked if the new road was going to continue in to the conservation area. The employee said it would not as it would spoil the setting and second it would involve too many accidents given the tendancy for speeding.

At the Ngorongoro Crater overlook we were disappointed to see the crater was fogged in but obvious game trails crossing the road reminded us of wildlife inhabiting the area. A cape buffalo and waterbuck at a small pond along the road and zebra at the airstrip reinforced the concept.

During the ensuing drive to the Serengeti National Park we saw kori bustard, augur buzzard, grants gazelle, ostrich, wildebeast and zebra. The picnic lunch break at Olduvai Gorge was interesting. I was particularly looking forward to that stop as I remembered the number of colorful song birds there and how friendly they were. Some even fed around our feet while others splashed in the birdbath. Several species of birds were present but so were numerous travelers besides our group. Just about every time I was able to get close enough to attempt a picture another traveler came along and without meaning to scared them away. We had a brief lecture on the Gorge and the discovery of fossils/bones of prehistoric man by Leakey and others. I did end up with some interesting bird photos and am looking forward to time to search thru the bird book. At the Naabi Gate to Serengeti N. P we took the short climb to the top of the kopjy seeing numerous red-headed agama and a great view of the surrounding countryside. The superb starlings were in great abundance. Other song birds were present but a bit skiddish with all the human activity. Then we drove into Serengeti N. P.

Godfrey informed us we missed the wildebeast migration as the rains were not that substantial this year. The main herds were already in the western corridor although small numbers of resident wildebeast were still around. In addition, the grass seemed extra tall compared to the 2002 trip and would make game watching more challenging. I felt a bit of disappointment. But, scenery, diversity of wildlife and the outstanding number of elephant and giraffe raised my spirits! Several places looked familiar as we drove along. The tree where Beth spotted the sleeping lioness on a large limb, the bridge across the small stream where we saw the Egyptian geese, and the turn off where we saw the limping wildebeast escape the lioness charge came back from the 2002 trip. We checked into the Serengeti Sopa Lodge with the greeting of staff, cold fruit juices and a damp wash cloth to remove the obvious dust on face, hands, and arms. Our room was on the right side of the lodge but a bit further to the end than in 2002. The balcony provided a great view of the countryside. The floor was extra squeaky and I am sure such was noticed by the guests downstairs! The small refrigerator, bottled water on the desk, ample bathroom, mosquito netting, and resident red-headed agama looked all to familiar. The grass had been burned close to the lodge?according to the staff to reduce the number of mosquitoes. The small watering hole near the swimming pool/patio area showed sign of obvious use and before long we saw dik-dik, topi, impala and cape buffale. Dinner was multi-course and I enjoyed a cold safari beer. This time however it came in a can. That night we wrote post cards. While Beth was in the bathroom she noted a gecho on the wall. Apparently, it found a crack along the ceiling/wall connection and could move freely inside and out.

On Friday we spent the entire day in the Serengeti. Saw a white-necked raven at the lodge. On the drive we saw southern ground hornbill, vervet monkey, lapfaced vulture, hyena, plover, fish eagle, batelaur eagle, lots of zebra and several wildebeast. We came upon a number of vehicles where the heads of two cheetah were visible under small shrubs along a small water course. I think I counted 15 or so vans and other vehicles there. As we drove maybe 200 yards further on I saw what turned out to be a leopard in brush under a large tree. We watched it eventually climb into the tree. Within a couple hundred yard radius of the cat were wart hog, topi and other wildlife. Further on we saw baboon. We were moving away at a good clip when Godrey quickly turned around and drove 3 or 4 miles back past the leopard tree and the cheetah to another road. Shaba found a hunting cheetah. It walked right in front of his van and by the time we got there it was lying in the shade. Then we turned around and resumed our original course. Saw tawny eagle, Egyptian geese, topi, secretary bird, maribou stork and waterbuck, more warthogs and various other game. Godfrey reported he had been in radio contact with main office in Arusha and our luggage was awaiting our arrival at the Serengeti visitor center where we were headed for a picnic box lunch. Sure enough the three bags were on the porch. Hurray, now the gals would be pleased! The tie straps were still intact. KLM had made arrangements to have the bags flown from Kilamanjaro airport to the small landing strip near the center. After eating we checked out the interpretative center which emphasized the annual wildebeast migration. An artificial game trail (with wildebeast tracks) led up and around a kopji. These geologic formations are like islands of large stones on the plains. Trees and shrubs have colonized these islands and various wildlife inhabit them. Numerous hyrax were present as well as abundant birdlife. We saw several agama and five lined skinks. The one employee remarked that the stone wall at the front of the patios is frequented by snakes. I found none. Vervet monkeys were getting into unattended van and making off with packages of cookies and other treats. One employee used a slingshot to discourage monkeys from hanging around. We continued the game drive seeing much wildlife including saddle stork and cooke?s hartebeast. Upon returning to the lodge I asked Godfrey how far he drove that day. He estimated 240 kilometers (150 miles)! Before the 730 evening meal we watched 3 bull cape buffalo drink at the water hole along with impala. I enjoyed a can of safari beer. When Darla and Beth returned to the room to shower before supper I chatted with folks at a nearby table. They had been to the Ngorongoro Crater earlier in the day and had a rhino cross the road near their van. They wanted to know what all we had seen and how the trip compared to our previous visit.

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Jul 11th, 2004, 12:19 PM
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We had an early game drive the next morning and added redbilled teal to our list. Beth enjoyed seeing the plover chick at a small stream. We also saw reedbuck for the first time in Africa. Hyena, elephant, Thompson gazelle, topi, baboon, and a brown snake eagle kept us occupied. We observed a group of lions chase zebra but with no success. The one herd of feeding elephants was quite noisy stripping branches and even pushing over small trees to get to the leafy material. Returned to the lodge for breakfast. The personal omlet (cheese, ham, and veggies ) was great as were the very thin pancakes according to Darla and Beth. I sometimes had the boiled coffee (that is how the container was labeled) but it was not as good as the coffee I had later in Kenya. After breakfast we headed to the patio to watch the buffalo and topi at the waterhole. Colorful male agama frequented the patio. We paid our ?bar? and laundry bill and checked out. The beer was 2,200 Tanzania shillings or about $2 a 12 oz can and the bottles of Fanta and Sprite were 1,300 Tanzania shillings or about $1.20 each. The laundry service came to 1,600 shillings ($1.45) for 2 t-shirts and 1,000 for a shirt. Also, we continued the normal practice of tipping each porter a dollar or so depending on the number of bags carried. Matthew was the young man in charge of our room. He beamed when he learned our son was also Matthew. He gave us a post card to give to our Matthew as a special gift from his African Matthew.

On the game drive out we saw some 20-plus giraffe in one herd. Also, under a small bush along the road we photographed a large manned lion with another one in the tall grass across the road. Saw numerous warthogs. As we approach the hill at Naabi gate we saw a lone eland in the distance. That was the one animal I really, really wanted to see up close. Imagine an antelope weighting well over 1,500 pounds! We had our box lunches at the entrance complex. We left the Serengeti N.P. and in one stretch Godrey went ?off road? as the road was so bumpy. We drove past the Masai village we visited in 2002. In the high arid country between the Serengeti and the Ngorongora Crater we observed several giraffe near the road. Godrey indicated they were migrating to the Serengeti.

Along the crater rim we again noted the crater was still fogged in. We checked into the Ngorongora Sopa Lodge with fresh juice and damp wash cloths. Our room was #80 quite away down the stone path from the main building. The room was quite spacious but had little view. A relatively fresh pile of dung outside the window indicated cape buffalo came close to the lodge. The view from the patio/pool area was outstanding and while Beth and Darla waited on the sunset I attempted to photograph the several species of small birds in the area. Had there been other circumstances I would have tossed one small boy over the retaining wall into the forest as he persisted in scaring all the birds! Mind you, I am not necessarily a birder but simply desired to photograph what I could. This Sopa had a laundry special. For 5,000 Tanzanian shillings or about $4.60 one could have washed and folded all the clothing one could get in the Sopa laundry bag. In it we stuffed 1 pair of slacks, 3 shirts, 2 hankies, 5 pair of socks, 6 underpants, 4 bras, and 1 t-shirt. Then for another $6.60 we got 2 pair of trousers, 2 pair of shorts, and 3 t-shirts washed.

Then up before 6 am for an early breakfast (buffet style again with the personalized omlet) before beginning the all day drive in the Crater. I recall the gate not opening until 7 am and Godfrey indicated no big hurry to get going as it was still chilly and misty (it is fall) in the crater. On the way he mentioned there being 27 species of acacia trees and several were in the immediate area including the stand of yellow acacia on the crater floor. Darla spotted a long crested eagle in a tree. By 8 am we were in the lower reaches of the crater. Again, certain features looked familiar, the tree with the wild bees, the thicket where we first saw the cape buffalo herd, and the small stream coming off the crater side. But, I could not see the large areas covered with the chest high yellow flowers. I asked Godfrey and he said the wildlife management persons were attempting to reduce the acreage of this weed as wildlife did not feed on it. Looking on the hillside I spotted a tractor and mower and obvious mowed areas here and there.

Along the Munge River we came upon a pride of 6 lions, tawny eagle, cape buffalo, zebra, and 3 eland (aha!) across the stream but too far for photos. Godfrey maintained radio contact with Shaba and soon we saw the bloody carcass of an antelope in a tree. The leopard was noted on a nearby limb. There was a road closer to the stand of trees but for some reason it was closed to access. In any case, it was a great sight to see this beautiful predator.

Moving on we saw ostrich, wildebeast, Grants gazelle, Thompson Gazelle and a forest buzzard. We covered quite a bit of the crater floor seeing elephants, and numerous other wildlife. We stopped at the rest room facilities in the yellow acacia forested area. Then towards the freshwater lake were hippos were still grazing. It was about 10 am and still no strong presence of sunlight. A rhino at a distance. Same for a cheetah with the alkaline lake in the background. More lions and a sounder of warthogs.

At the alkaline lake, thousands of pink flamingoes were feeding. Several hyena were drinking as well as wildebeast. Two golden jackals.

For the lunch break we headed to a nearby freshwater lake where hippos were obvious. Elephants were feeding in the swampy areas further from the lake. Rest rooms were available. We were encouraged to eat in the van. African black kites were swooping down to snatch food from unsuspecting tourists. These crow sized birds were impressive. During the afternnon drive we saw crowned crane and cream colored coursers. On the way back along the river we came upon the same lions we enjoyed seeing in the morning. We left the crater and returned to the Sopa Lodge. A pleasant stay on the patio to watch the sunset and photo birds and the blackish mouse like rodents that lived in the patio wall.

The crowd in the dinning room was quite an international one. I recall hearing conversations in French, Spanish, English (some with a British accent), and one or two languages I could not place. The couple from the England (actually the Channel Islands) were delighted to hear our luggage finally caught up with us.

After breakfast we checked out. Before leaving I was able to walk along the flower beds and photo more birds. The one sunbird was a real challenge. One drawback of using the digital camera was the delay between depressing the shutter release and when the picture was taken. The drive to Arusha was pleasant. We went to the Predators Safari Club headquaters for a debriefing. There Darla noted an attractive piece of copper with small metal animal heads attached. We asked where we might be able to purchase. The manager gave Godfrey the address of shops possibly carrying this line of merchandise. We went to the Heritage Cultural Center again and then into town to find the shop. As soon as we exited the van we were surrounded with persons attempting to sell us souverniers. Despite our best efforts to say ?no? they followed up and down the sidewalk. We visited a couple of shops but no luck in finding the item. The venders were quite persistent and it really dampened the idea of attempting to shop. Godfrey then dropped the 5 of us off at the Shanghi Chinese restauant (same as in 2002) for an excellent meal. We each ordered a different meal and then share via the rotating table center. Then, he took us to the parking lot of the Mt. Meru Hotel to board the Riverside Bus to Nairobi. The bus specializes in serving the tourist trade. Luggage was stored on top of the bus. He introduced us to the bus driver who was to take care of us. At the time we were not certain who was in charge?thinking someone from Naked Wilderness Safari would be involved. If I recall the trip was to be some 4 hours in length. We left at 2 pm or shortly afterwards. The trip was relatively uneventful. We completed departure forms for leaving Tanzania and arrival ones for entering Kenya. At the border things were not exactly clear. As it turned out between the two ?borders? there is kind of a no-mans land where vehicles wait until cleared for passage or until passengers are okayed to enter the other country. An official climbed on top of the bus with the driver to check certain baggage. Later, I asked our driver why only certain pieces were examined. He said some looked more suspicious than others. We had our passports cleared by the Tanzanian border office and then kinda wandered across no-mans land to the Kenya office. There the official took our completed visa applications, passports and money and stamped/initialed the visas and we were all set to enter. There were all kinds of little shops and venders anxious to conduct business. Before we had time to have to look for restrooms our driver came along and said we would be stopping just a short distance down the road. Then, we were off into Kenya driving but a couple of miles to an establishment of gift shops, rest rooms and flowering shrubs and trees. Then, onto Nairobi. We saw more and more churches and large farms. The road was paved and travel was speedy. Until, we got into Nairobi where traffic and smog were obvious.
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Jul 11th, 2004, 05:10 PM
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Part 4
Kenya
Eventually we got to the Nairobi Intercontinental Hotel where we unloaded. Fred Landi from Naked Wilderness Safari was there to greet us and get us settled. It was well past 6 pm and we were on our own for supper that evening. We opted to have snacks (granola bars and the like) as we had the big Chinese lunch. Also, the menu seemed a bit pricey. The Hotel while on the fancy side was poorly constructed. Doors were not well fitted and it soon became obvious the walls were very thin. We watched television but noises (television and conversation) from the adjacent room degraded the experience. At one point I called the room next door in an attempt to get things a bit quieter. When the person then got a phone call and was talking quite loudly I banged on the common door and think she/he got the point. The next morning we had breakfast in the dinning room. Usual fare. Then we met Fred and the rest of the contingent?17 of us (we three, a couple from California, family of three from Illinois, group of 5 also from California, a father/daughter from Arizona and two gals from (ne US). We met in a small conference room where Fred briefed us on the itinerary and shopping. We all remembered him saying ?if we saw something of interest in a shop to buy it then as we probably would not see it again?. He also indicated who would be traveling with whom in the three vans. We were to go with the family of three from Illinois and Peter M would be our driver. The other Peter would be handling the group of 5 from California while Timothy would handled the six others.

Like Tanzania, Kenya is a former British holding. English is a common language as is the practice of driving on the left side of the road. Darla recalled seeing the sign ?Keep Left Unless Overtaking?. Agriculture (coffee, tea, pineapple, wheat and maize) is the main industry followed by tourism. We departed for Mount Kenya National Park in the Central Highlands. We stopped at a large curio shop (as I would later discover one of many in our travels). We purchased batif, a wooded carving of Africa, and two Masai people. The sales people were very persistent. When the one saw we were interested in a large carving of the Last Supper he even took me into the back area to show how sturdy the shipping crates were and how easy they could arrange everything. Gave me his business in the event we changed our mind about the item.


We arrived at the Mountain Lodge in time for lunch in the early afternoon. As soon as we departed the van we saw black and white colobus monkey and blue or sykes monkey. We were warned to keep our windows closed when out of the lodge rooms as the sykes monkeys were quite bad. A couple of times we heard the Mountail Lodge ?is not where you go looking for animals but where the animals come looking for you?. The lodge was build on pillars near a natural depression with a pond frequently visited by local wildlife. A circular water trough had been provided as we understood the elephants preferred such. Also, two large circular stones were there so the elephants could rub their bellies. Each room had a balcony facing the water hole. And, from the basement level one could walk down a corridor into a ?bunker? closer to the waterhole for a closer look at the wildlife. The entire top floor was available as a viewing area particularly for sunset and sunrise. We had a fine lunch and then retreated to the room to watch for wildlife. Cape buffalo, waterbuck, maribou stork, ibis, bushbuck (a new sighting for us) and others were already there. One waterbuck was missing a hind foot. The naturalist explained it had been removed during an attack by a hyena. Seems hyena when attacking larger game go for the hind quarter. In this case, the aim was off a bit and in the process either bit off the foot or it was so damaged it eventually rotted off. We could see the exposed leg bone.

We took the optional game walk. It was for about 2 miles thru the forest. Besides William the naturalist we had two armed guards. Each had a foreign made automatic, military-type weapon. William pointed out numerous plants (including the stinging nettles) and gave considerable info on key animals in the area with skulls/bones as teaching aids. He also showed us the safari ants?the trails. These ants are often referred to as ?pants down? ants given the immediate desire of the attacked person to want to undress so the assailants can be brushed off. We tucked our pant legs into our socks to reduce chance of them getting to skin. Also, when we noted such ants on the ground we stomped our feet to shake them off our shoes. Given the size of our group I doubted we would see much wildlife. I saw the back end of a waterbuck and Darla spotted a red duiker (one of the smallest antelope). William pointed out the holes in one tree were man made. Seems during the Mau Mau rebellion they were used as a place for depositing messages. At the far point of the walk we came into a circle of upended short logs (for seats) and had tea and coffee. For those who desired bourbon (Three Barrell) was added to the drink. Tasty!! I enjoyed the walk as it was somewhat personalized/

We returned to the lodge and decided to check out the bunker. Wasn?t much activity at the pond but two marabou storks were there. The two gals from our group were there also. The one stork jumped into the air on one side of the observation area and landed on the other side of the bunker right at the window taking the two gals by surprise!! Then we heard a major commotion in the hallway behind us. Two young boys were running and yelling as they came down the hall and then literally forced their way in front of the two gals. I thought about shoving the one thru the observation window until I realized the ?x? bars on the window would have made things messy!

The naturalist mentioned there were seven young Egyptian geese initially but two fell prey to the marabou stork. The goslings became Beth?s favorites during our stay.

We noted an employee attaching a fairly good size bone to one of two feeding platforms not too far from the large window in the hotel lobby. We could easily see it from our balcony. The marabou storks quickly came to the feast. At the evening meal an employee came around asking what wildlife was of interest to us. The point was that during the nite guests would be wakened so they could observe said species at the waterhole. Large lights illuminated the area. A slide show was on tap around 9 by the naturalist. After we ate we sat on the balcony until time for the show. The storks had left the feeding platform and Beth soon noted a spotted genet cat was there. It had a long bushy tail with rings and a head/face more like a mongoose. Shortly afterwards we saw a marsh mongoose.

At the slide show William gave a great presentation on the general area, wildlife, climbing Mount Kenya and even mentioned fishing the local streams (both brown and rainbow trout have been introduced). I didn?t get to ask him but I wondered about fishing while keeping an eye out for the occasional cape buffalo (not exactly the same as fishing the Yellowstone River and having an elk or two in the area!). Part way thru his talk we were told a rhino was at the water hole and the entire audience went to the balcony to see it. After the show we retired to the balcony. We saw the rhino, whitetail mongoose, African hare, and Darla/Beth spotted a Phoenix Eagle Owl. A couple of times we saw a pair of white tail mongoose. Antelope, mostly waterbuck, frequented the waterhole and on occasion we heard cape buffalo in the bushes. The mother goose and five goslings spent the night on the rock in the middle of the watering hole. I thought I heard the ?wake up knock? during the nite. I arose but saw nothing at the pond. The girls thought I was dreaming as they heard nothing. In the morning we saw a whole troop of baboon. We had breakfast and left Mountain Lodge. On the way we passed several youngsters on their way to school. Several waved and greeted us yelling ?how are you?? I know Beth enjoyed the lodge and awaiting visitors to the pond.

On the way to Lake Nakuru as well as the drive to Mountain Lodge we stopped several times so the drivers could take a break, we could use rest rooms and of course to shop. Venders were quite willing to assist with purchases and bargaining was to be expected. We understood many livelihoods depending on the tourist trade and that venders had to make the most of any situation. We soon caught on to the ?drill?. A sales person would introduce him/herself to us and ask about our country. Once learning we were from the US we would then be asked about our state. The conversation would then get more personalized as he/she would mention a city in our state. And, so on. With or without a purchase being made we often were asked for some type of item (pen, t-shirt, hat, etc) We noted many, many items were common to all shops and prices varied. And, some of the most expensive ones were at the first place we stopped (the advice to purchase early seemed to hint of a ?kick back? to the tour company. On the way we stopped at the equator. Our stop, convenient or not, happened to also be at a curio/craft stand. One employee gave a demonstration of the difference between northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere in regards to motion of falling objects. On one side of the equator the whirl pool in a pail went clockwise and counterclockwise on the other side of the equator. When exactly on the equator there was no motion. For a fee of three dollars one could get a stamped certificate saying one had stood exactly on the equator!


In the Nyahruru area we stopped to see Thomas Falls while the drivers went for gas. We were at the mercy of numerous vendors who wanted us to see their shops. Also, a couple of young fellows had chameleons. They would place one on you and then demand 2 or 3 dollars for the priviledge of enjoying their pets. From a couple of gals who did purchase a few items, the shops there may have been the more reasonable priced ones we saw.

Once we drove thru the town of Nakuru we entered Lake Nakuru National Park. It is a relatively small park and is entirely fenced in. In driving around the lake, the town is quite visible in the background. The park is well known for the Rothchild Giraffe and having both white and black rhino. Rothchild giraffe have no markings below the knees. The rhino were easy to spot. At the lake we saw thousands of flamingoes, pelicans, cormorants, a few yellow billed stork. The vans pulled up to the edge of the lake and we could stroll around and photograph the birds. We drove around the lake to Lake Nakuru Lodge. I recall seeing one sedan with a couple of tourists along the one road with the driver appearing to be getting a ticket from a park employee. As we drove past the auto it became obvious the driver had attempted to cross a flooded portion of the road as the mud line was very high on the vehicle. I imagine the engine got flooded. Reinforced the idea of being prepared! The lodge area was surrounded by electric fence with extra wire on tops of posts to keep the baboons from climbing. I noted that inside of the fence there was additional wire but on a horizontal lay out with flowering vines and plants interspersed. Seems the intent was to also keep guests from attempting to climb out.

A small watering area was just downslope from the lodge. Sacred ibis and greensided ibis, baboon, cape buffalo and impala could be easily seen there. Lunch was buffet style. The area was well landscaped and I saw numerous trees and shrubs with a sign indicating when and who donated the plant.

We had an afternoon game drive. Less than a quarter of mile from the lodge we spotted 2 lionesses with cubs. We also saw crested eagle, jackal, eland (again at a distance), more Rothchild giraffe, wart hog, impala, Thompson?s gazelle, water buck, zebra, baboon, vervet monkey and superb starling.

Dinner was buffet style with freshly sliced pork and beef. Soup was served at the table then one could wander from different stations (salad, fruit, side dishes, meat, and dessert) to complete the meal. When we entered the dinning room staff in native attire were singing local songs with accompanying instruments. During the meal a fellow with a guitar wandered around the room. One member of our group had the singer do a special number to celebrate his wife?s birthday.


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Jul 12th, 2004, 05:33 PM
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Part 5 (I am not sure this lengthy a posting is appropriate or appreciated, but since asked by a couple of Fodorites-here goes).

We departed the next morning for the Masai Mara National Park. After the customary stop for curios we entered lands owned by the Masai. We saw much larger herds of cattle and goats. While many Masai continue to live in the traditional mud huts and brush encircled villages others live in more permanent structures. We noted the roads were terrible. Mind you, I am quite used to rutty, dirt and gravel roads but the ?macadam? ones in Kenya often left a lot to be desired. Too often the drivers opted to drive way out on the berm rather than on the road. My photos don?t do justice to the conditions we saw. But, in many places no road was better than the formal one. I asked our guide why such conditions. He said it all depended on where the persons in authority live or are from.

We eventually reached the Siana Springs Intrepids Tented Safari Camp about 4.5 miles outside the eastern boundary of the Masai Mara National Park. We checked in and were escorted to tent A-2 in a small clearing with 4 other tents. Jackson was in charge of our tent and was quite personable. Tent A-2 was located some distance from the dining room/lounge/office complex. A gravel path thru the lawn into a small patch of trees past the pool and onto another grassy area found us adjacent to tents used by our group. The tent was quite spacious with three beds, desk and a bathroom/shower area that could be closed off to the rest of the tent. Old kerosene lanterns had been converted to electricity. A wooden rack was covering the bottom of the shower floor to keep ones feet out of the drain water. A water heater fueled by charcoal or coal was outside the tent. We were strongly encouraged to keep the tent flaps zipped to prevent access by the vervet monkeys. Even though the compound was fenced, monkeys and baboons could easily get in the area. And, the area had a family or so of bushbuck. An abundance of bird life was around the compound.

Laundry was $1.15 for a t-shirt, $1.85 for a pair of trousers and $1.45 for a pair of shorts.

Between lunch and the 4 pm game drive I sneaked around the wooded area in search of birds to photograph. The bushy area around the small pond was a great place. I discovered that despite my best effort to avoid safari ants one did venture up my leg but quickly succumbed to a hard swat. I noted a hyrax resting on a pole of a nearby tent. Darla and I took in a talk by a warrior from a nearby Masai tribe. He was in full dress and spoke to us about life including the rites of passage for a young man from boyhood to becoming an elder.

In the afternoon we took our first game drive (4 pm to about 6 or so). As with entering other national parks in Kenya a crowd of locals swarmed around vehicles stopped at the gates. It was difficult to look out the window without being solicited to purchase carvings, jewelry, etc. Shortly we came upon several lions and two were in the process of mating. We saw elephant, topi, wart hog, giraffe, Thompson Gazelle, wildebeast, zebra, ostrich, a species of grebe, lilac breasted roller, a type of dove, a steepe eagle, a yellow-billed egret, eland, and secretary birds. I will admit I was still a bit disappointed in how much of the countryside seemed to be void of wildlife. I have to qualify that as much of the grass was still quite high as the big herds of wildebeast had not yet arrived. And, without being able to ?poke? around who knows what we missed. In scanning an area one could easily miss the head of say a lion or hyena which just happened to take a quick peek around.

We came back to the lodge in time to wash up for supper. The dining area was an open tent looking out to the lawn. We opted to sign on for the nite game drive ($30 per person). We gathered in the lobby area at 9 pm where we were met by the crew including one fellow armed with a 458 caliber Winchester hunting rifle. Four others from our group joined up. There was a noticeable breeze. We began the drive right outside of camp. We were in a 4x4 vehicle with 3 benches for patrons and two seats one for the driver and one for the spotter who mostly stood on the running board. The spot light he used seemed to be smaller than the one we use here in Pa. He continued to sweep the light to both sides and ahead to either see animals or get eyes. Also, he worked over branches in trees. We saw impala, dik-dik, zebra, bats, genet cats, African hare, bush baby and the African spring baby (moved like a Kangeroo). Also, a large owl was seen close enough for pictures before it flew off. While I am sure we saw several hundred different animals, I jokingly said the drive came to about $8 per African hare!! I had visions of seeing more species including major predators but such was not to be. The crew had coffee and tea along but given the hour we declined. We were back in camp by 11 and in bed by 11:30pm as we had showered earlier. We were greatly surprised with the hot water bottle in each bed. While conditions were not chilly what a nice comfort. I would also note that on the gravel trail just before entering the grassy area near the tents we saw a very obvious line of safari ants crossing the trail. (During the day ant numbers were greatly reduced but again at nite increased?I mentioned this to our colleagues and also to staff. We noted on the last day either the ants moved elsewhere or the staff intervened)

During the second day at Masai Mara we continued to see a variety of wildlife. We had a picnic lunch outside the park at a small pavilion next to a gift shop and restrooms. There were only 8 of us as the other nine were on the optional hot air balloon ride. After lunch we re-entered the park and headed for the Serena Lodge to pick up our colleagues from the hot air balloon ride. There we discovered the two gals did not get to go on the trip as their balloon operator cancelled due to high winds. Alas, the gals spent much of the day back at the tented lodge. That afternoon we saw four cheetah including the one with yellow ear tag #155. We continued to see a diversity of wildlife.

Back at the tented lodge we read, did crossword puzzles, post cards, and even took a little nap. Some of our group took the optional trip to a Masai village. As we had done such in 2002 in Tanzania we passed on the opportunity. Darla and I headed over to the lounge where I enjoyed a cold bottle of Tuskers beer. Supper was another great meal. We signed on for another night game drive. This time there were only the three of us. Herold or Herron,the lodge naturalist, was the spotter. He provided each of us with a blanket. His English was great and he covered quite a few details as to the land, the inhabitants, etc. He also commented on the relationship with the Masai and how they often set fires to improve grazing for cattle and kill the ticks. He felt their herds were getting too large and such was having a negative impact on the wildlife. We could see forest/grass fires quite a ways off in the distance. We covered a different area than the nite before. In fact we drove right adjacent to a Masai village. The smell of livestock/human urine was quite obvious. We saw the African spring hare, two bat-eared foxes, a nightjar (nighthawk??), a marsh like bird he called a ?dickle?, gun, zebra, impala, a small crocodile, topi, hartebeast, hyena, silver jackal and white-tailed mongoose. At a small pond we heard calls of frogs/toads that resembled the ringing or chiming of small bells. An awesome sound according to Beth, our musician!

We arose around 630 and had a great breakfast of the typical east African menu. I continued to enjoy the omlets and Beth and Darla really liked the paper thin pancakes. We continued to take the malaria preventative Malarone with breakfast. Two of the group arose much earlier to take a hot air balloon ride. We departed at 8 am for the all day game drive. Right into the park we spotted a Coke?s hartebeast. Peter mentioned someone in another vehicle had seen a leopard in the high grass near clumps of shrubs. As we drove thru the tall grass I looked down and right next to the van was the leopard. We stopped and while picture taking was difficult given the thick grass we saw the mother with cub! We continued to see a variety of animals. We were on our way to the Mara River area particularly to see hippos. We made a slight detour to meet the van picking up the two gals who were able to reschedule their balloon flight. When we stopped Peter strolled over to check on things and called to us ?I have something to show you?. It turned out to be a young African rock python coiled up about head high in a small shrub. It was very obvious both Peters were not comfy being around reptiles. Beth and I moved in close for picture taking. I asked Peter if he was scared of snakes. He said, ?yes, snakes, turtles, frogs and toads!?. Then Darla told him as part of my job I sometimes handled snakes. He asked if we had the same kind of snakes in US. I said no except in zoos and some persons kept them as pets. That really shocked him!

Dick
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Jul 12th, 2004, 05:35 PM
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Part 6
We came to a marker (Tanzania/Kenya border). Considerable picture taking occurred. Some members opted for a bathroom call in the tall grass. A traveler in another van stopped further down the road and went behind a tall termite mound thinking she was hidden from other motorists only to discover once ?uncovered? she was in plain view of us. (we were mooned). Her husband was less discrete and simply turned his back to us. We unofficially crossed over into Tanzania and stopped at the river. There an armed fellow took us along the river to see hippos and crocodiles. The steep, narrow paths we used were created by hippos traveling to and from the river to graze at nite. We also saw areas where wildebeast and zebra used to cross the river during the migration. The crocs were quite large (14-16 feet). We returned to the van and crossed the river stopping at a couple of points to see more hippos. We noted a very large solitary elephant near another van. Apparently it was an ill-tempered bull and the van quickly pulled away. We continued the drive having lunch under a tree on the top of a hill surrounded by grassy areas. In the distance on one side we could see a couple dozen zebra on the move. On the other side we could see smoke from what seemed like a major forest/grass fire. We resumed the drive. Peter really was not paying much attention to wildlife. Apparently someone had notified him on the radio as to lions up ahead so we circled a swampy area and came upon several lying in the shade. Before we spied the lions we knew something was in the makings as we could smell rotting meat. Shortly past that spot I focused my eyes on an odd shaped ?bush? in the distance. The more I watched the more I felt it was a rhino. Then, the angle changed and it was a rhino! I called out to Peter and he took another road and brought us closer. The sighting meant quite a bit to me as it was more in a natural wild setting than those at Lake Nakuru. We headed back to the gate. Then, Darla spotted two or three lions practically at the gate. I was delighted with her sighting as persons in the front van missed them as did our driver! We got back to camp around 4 pm.

The drive from Masai Mara to Amboseli was relatively uneventful. We stopped in Nairobi to drop off persons not continuing on to Amboseli and had lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel. I think we would have preferred something simpler and certainly less expensive but that must be the routine. We had chicken sandwiches, fries and drink. Plus, the Black Forest Cake caught our eye and we each enjoyed a piece. The bill came to around $45 (roughly 25% gratuities and various taxes)! At 1:30 we loaded up. Now there were just three in our van and 5 in the other. The road to Amboseli was the same one we took from Tanzania to Nairobi. Just before we reached the border we turned off onto a gravel road to Amboseli. Peter was in a major hurry?and would have done NASCAR proud. My eyes kept searching for a glimpse of Mt. Kilamanjaro but to no avail. Finally we entered Amboseli National Park where Peter then turned off the road and headed cross country. We were traveling across an old lake bed that during the rainy season becomes a lake. At 40 mph we moved along seeing zebra and the occasional wildebeast. Exiting the old lake bed we moved along the regular gravel road seeing more wildlife. Somehow we missed seeing the cheetahs that were reported. The clouds parted enough for us to see the top of Mt. Kilamanjaro!! We drove thru the compound where the Amboseli and the Ol Tukai lodges are located and then onto Amboseli Sopa Lodge. The lodge is nicely landscaped with electrified fence around part of it. On the side with our room either fence or a stone wall separated civilization from the bush. Within a couple hundred feet of the patio we could see a small stream, pond and lush green area. Along the walkway we noted posts with red signs and button for guests to alert staff as to either a fire or animals in the compound. Vervet monkeys were in abundance as well as a variety of birds. The dinning area had large sliding doors to the outside. A couple were open slightly and a large (and I mean large) dung beetle was crawling under our table. It was moved to the outside. The menu was typical of those we saw during the trip. For the one evening meal I noted the menu for this report. For an appetizer one could have a selection of fresh garden salads and condiments from the buffet or a fan of honey melon with Italian salami glazed with ginger scented dressing. Soup was a choice between essence of beef and chicken or cream of tomato and aubergine. One could also have sea fish quiche. The main entries were roast spring chicken with provencale sauce, grilled medallions of beef fillet on pepper sauce or baked red snapper fish set on coconut sauce. There was also a vegetarian offer from the buffet. Side dish choices included roast potatoes, risotto rice and trio of market vegetables. For dessert one had a great selection from the buffet table?various pastries, fresh tropical fruit slices, chilled fruit salad and a variety of dessert sauces (including chocolate). Also there was a Kenyan cheese board with relishes and crackers. Plus, one could get Kenyan coffee or tea/herbal tea. Besides water, beer and soda there was an extensive wine list. The wines seemed pricey.

We awoke to the sound of a hippo in the nearby swampy area. We departed at 630 am for the morning game drive. The mountain was hidden by clouds and rain was threatening. We saw blacksmiths plover, sacred ibis, a species of bustard, lions, cape buffalo, hyena, Thompson?s gazelle, zebra, wildebeast and blackheaded heron. It rained hard enough for us to put the van top down. But, we were treated to the sight of a beautiful rainbow with the entire arc in view! We returned to the lodge about 815 for breakfast. Upon entering the dining hall we were offered a glass of champainge (before breakfast!!). Usual breakfast buffet with the personalized omlet. The afternoon game drive was not until 4 pm. We opted to take a game walk with 7 other guests including a young family with two boys. Our Masai warrior guide was accompanied by a fellow warrior. Both were dressed in native garb. We headed thru the patio area over the stone fence and across the stream noting fresh tracks of various animals on the way. I soon learned the two small boys and their dad were going to make the walk less than I expected. All three had a tendency to get ahead of the guide scaring birdlife before we could get close. Losing my patience I suggested Dad rein in his boys. Several times afterwards the guide had to remind them of the need to stay behind. We saw Arican hopoe bird, lesser bush baby, dung beetle, Thompson?s Gazelle, Zebra, Masai donkeys, cattle and goats. He told us quite a bit about the Masai and wildlife in the area. After a while we were met by lodge staff with a cooler of chilled beverage including Tuskers beer, soda and water. Then we rode back to the lodge in time for lunch. The three of us sat around the patio checking out wildlife coming to the stream or simply relaxing. At some point Darla saw the African Jacana also known as the Jesus bird as it walks on water (it has webbed feet so it can easily walk ontop of lily pads and similar vegetation). At 4 pm we departed the lodge as did just about every tourist there for the afternoon game drive. We saw a Denhams Bustard, secretary bird, yellow-necked spur fowl, whitebellied go away bird and more. We drove to the one swamp/lake where numerous elephants were feeding and crossing the waterway. Several hippos were in the area with egrets. Then, we drove to the base of Observation Hill and walked/climbed the path to the top for a great view of the area. Moving on we continued to see wildlife including wart hog, cape buffalo, wildebeast, zebra. Pete learned of lions ahead but asked us first if we wanted to see the elephants crossing the road on their way from the daytime feeding area to the forested areas. We got positioned with several other vans in the path of the elephant herd which crossed the road on both sides of us. One young female elephant was afraid and backed off sounding off. A larger one in the herd started back when a couple of the drivers moved vans making a larger gap. The young one headed across and as we looked at the mountain we noted more of it was visible. Thus, we had a great background as the elephants moved off. Then we headed over to see the lions before driving to the lodge. As we passed over the pipe gate into the Amboseli/ Ol Tukai lodge compound I asked Peter about the wired dangling from the overhead. He said that was to keep out the elephants. Must not always work as we saw one fairly large elephant near the lodge and within the fenced area.

The next morning Mount Kilamanjaro was cloud covered as we exited Amboseli National Park. I think Peter was oblivious to anything not on the immediate road. I spotted a very slender brown antelope browsing by standing on its hind legs. Folks in the other van confirmed my sighting and it was a gerenuk antelope (another new species for us). On the way to Nairobi we stopped at the same rest stop we did on the bus drive. The flowering shrubs were beautiful.
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Jul 12th, 2004, 05:41 PM
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Part 7 and the last
We indicated to Peter we were interested in seeing the Giraffe Centre as well as the Karen Blixen museum. We drove into Nairobi and toured the Giraffe Center where we feed food pellets to the Rothchild Giraffe and the wart hogs. One fairly large wart hog was allowed in the courtyard where persons could feed it and touch it. As with ones we observed in the wild it often fed while kneeling.

We had an interesting tour of the Blixen museum. Some of the furniture and fixtures are originals. Others were donated by the movie company after the making of the movie. Darla really appreciated seeing the room divider (screens) but we were not permitted to take photos. The estate was of some 6,000 acres originally but now only 7 acres are with the museum. The Karen Blixen Coffee restaurant where we had lunch was the residence of the chief overseer for her estate. We had a great meal of chicken strips in salad and fries and beverage for less than $10 each. During lunch Fred of Naked Wilderness Safari called to speak with Peter and also with me as to the safari. Really could not speak candidly with him.

The two Peters then took the 8 of us to Nairobi Airport. We proceeded thru immigration with no problems.

All-in-all the trip was a good one. Many sightings and happenings will be with us for many years. The hundreds of photographs will fill in the gaps in these brief notes. I have yet to begin the task of assembling them as well as identifying the birds. If asked if we would go again, I am sure the three would say definitely yes to Tanzania but no to Kenya. Tanzania was more laid back, less developed, and certainly more friendly to visitors in our opinion. Kenya is more developed (although the roads would not indicate such). There is considerable pressure to purchase things every time the vehicle stops. I will say the employees at the lodges in both countries were courteous, interesting and personable. Kenya game drives are much shorter and the vans are 8 passenger as opposed to 7 passenger in Tanzania. The extra seat makes for much less room on game drives. I do not know if the difference is due to country or simply the safari companies. But, in Kenya the guides seemed less interested in the clients?leaving us to the mercy of venders while they went off to gas up. I had heard the Serena chain of lodges was supposedly a step or so above the Sopa ones. I really did not see much difference although we did not have opportunity to compare the two in the same country. At times we did not have hot water with certain Serena lodges.

We would definitely book thru 2Afrika again and for the services of Predators Safari Club even if we don?t have Godfrey as our guide. The pre/post safari briefings said a lot for the company. While it may not be appropriate to compare company to company due to differences between safari programs in the two countries, I felt there was a major difference. I was disappointed with Naked Wilderness Safari. While the trip was certainly a good one I felt our driver was basically someone to move the vehicle from place to place. He never once used binoculars to check out wildlife, was inconsistent in the identification of mammals, told incorrect information on animal behaviour (that lions do not hunt at nite for example), could not identify what I thought were more common birds, used the radio constantly (also for music), and often drove by wildlife we really had not observed. Based on feedback from individuals in the other van I will say not all drivers are the same. But, still I will be sharing my thoughts with 2Afrika management as to our experience in Kenya. I think they need to hear from a guest both the highs and the lows.
For us, we felt we got more value for our money in Tanzania than in Kenya.
For those of you who stayed the course and read all the notes and comments I trust they were informative. I am sure I will amend them as I complete the photo project. I am looking forward to getting a selection of them on the internet in the near future. Thanks to several of you for the comments and suggestions that contributed to us having a great trip. And, I trust I did not offend anyone for the lengthy posting nor abuse the spirit of the Fodors Boards.

Dick (for Darla and Beth)




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Jul 12th, 2004, 06:09 PM
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Dick,
Thanks for the reports. They made for interesting reading. Sounds like it was a fun trip. Can't wait to see the photos.

As you touched on, the difference between a good driver/guide and a bad one is like night and day.

When we visited Kenya and Tanzania last year, our guide in the Mara was superb, to say the least. I would use him again in a heartbeat.

However, upon arriving in Tanzania, we unfortunately had a guide that made our time there quite unpleasant. But it has not deterred me from wanting to return to Tanzania someday.

So many countries in Africa...so little vacation time...

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Jul 12th, 2004, 06:14 PM
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fantastic trip report. thanks for taking the time and sharing. i hope to see some of your pics as you named a lot of species (especially birds) that i have never seen.
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Jul 12th, 2004, 06:18 PM
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Wonderful trip report! I can't wait for our trip to Kenya and Tanzania in September.
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Jul 13th, 2004, 01:03 AM
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Absolutely wonderful, thank you so much for taking the time to share your report.

It's great to have the detail of what you saw, your timetable, the lodges themselves. I really have a feel for the different destinations and how the itinerary fit together.

I must admit that I'm really even more appreciative of the Wilderness Safari policy of no children under 12 in it's camps (with the exception of Rocktail Bay and also the newer camps due to open in South Africa). I would have been very cross to have wildlife viewing opportunities ruined by kids racing around.

I agree that you must let 2Afrika know both your positive and negative impressions. Having a good guide makes such a difference and one who is indifferent/ unskilled at identification and explanation is quite a disappointment. I would not have been happy to have music in the vehicle at all.

Anyway, sounds like a great trip overall and such a pleasure to read all the details. Thanks again.
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Jul 13th, 2004, 10:37 AM
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Hello Dick,
Read your whole report and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I love the name: Pants down ants. Very apt description!

Btw, I too stayed at Illboro Lodge about 5 years ago and never figured out how to utilize the shower. Now I dont feel quite so dumb.

Thanks for taking the time to post this. Much appreciated.
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Jul 13th, 2004, 10:49 AM
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Dick Thank you so much for this report. We are in the process of deciding on trips to do with 2Afrika so your information is invalueable. I am sure I could come up with a million more questions for you! I am very much looking forward to seeing your photos so do let us know where they are being posted. Thank you also for passing on to 2Afrika all your thoughts I always think good constructive information always has the potenital to be used for improvement. Once again Thanks and keep an eye on this board for as our plans progress I am sure I will have questions that yu will be extreamly qualified to reply to.

Julie
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Jul 13th, 2004, 11:45 AM
  #14
 
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Dick,

Thanks so much for the report. I had the opportunity to use 2Afika on my trip to Tanzania (I'd already gone on safari twice in Kenya) and I would use them again without question. I also had Godfrey as a driver/tracker. They give good value for the $$.
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Jul 13th, 2004, 02:57 PM
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Great trip report. I'll be posting one soon. We just got back from our trip yesterday, and also went to Kenya and Tanzania (with additional three nights in Zanzibar). We did a private safari (only us in the vehicles with a guide) and went with Vintage Africa. I second the "what a difference a guide makes" comment. We had a fabulous guide in Kenya and our favorite park was the Massia Mara. We did stay at many of the same camps and lodges. More to come!!
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Jul 13th, 2004, 03:42 PM
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Dick:

Thanks for the wonderfully detailed trip report. It raised my excitement level a couple of notches. I leave in 2 1/2 weeks.

Regarding Amboseli, did you mean Amboseli Serena or has Sopa just completed a new lodge?

I think you may have lost out though on not staying at Ol Tukai. It is truly a charming place with marvelous landscaping and an absolutely wonderful staff. In fact last September the Princess of Thailand stayed there. Her forward "scouts" had investigated the Serena first and were told by Serena they were the only lodge in the park. When the "scouts" got back to Nairobi they found out about Ol Tukai and turned around and went back to check it out. They decided that was where the Princess should stay. If you are staying in the "elephant view" chalets you see the eles in the swamp from your veranda. Otherwise you have a view of Kilimanjaro, when not covered by clouds. Perhaps if you get back again you'll be able to try my "home away from home".

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to keep us all informed.

Jan
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Jul 13th, 2004, 04:46 PM
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Thanks for the great report, Dick. It was just the right length to say all you wanted to say. Too bad about the uninterested guides. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share your trip with us.

I can't wait to see your pictures.


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Jul 13th, 2004, 09:09 PM
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Dick I just wanted yo to know that I have just printed out your entire trip report because I think it is valuable to my plans! So Thanks
J
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Jul 14th, 2004, 04:21 AM
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Jan - Yes, Sopa is scheduled to open a new lodge in Amboseli and another at Lake Nakuru or Navaisha - seems that Sopa Amboseli is ahead of schedule.

Have to concur that it's great guides that make for outstanding safari experiences regardless the country visited. And if not satisfied with the guide assigned, your tour operator (Predators) should be notified immediately. Granted it might take some doing to have a guide replaced when you are out in the middle of nowhere, but the proper parties should be aware of your dissatisfaction - 2Afrika should know about this issue immediately upon your return home.

And, unless you absolutely have to stop along you route for gas or a "potty-stop" you should advise your guide that you "do not" want to be stopping along the road at souvenir/curio shops to make purchases. Except for one stop for gas on the road to the Mara, our guide always managed to fill-up either before gathering us for the first game drive, or after dropping us at the end of the day. So guides/drivers don't have to do this "during your safari time" and especially if you're not in a "purchasing state of mind." In Tanzania it's a bit different as there aren't many places to stop for souvenirs, potty-stops are taken out in the bushes, and since there are no gas stations in the Serengeti, you travel with your own supply.
 
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